With next season already promising to be hugely different given the dramatic developments at Old Trafford this week, cherishing this campaign suddenly looks to be even more important.
For Wigan Athletic, that seems to ring true more than loudly than for others.
The Latics will be FA Cup finalists at the weekend, but come Tuesday they could find that their eight-year stint in the Premier League is over. Should results go against them at the weekend, then nothing less than three points from their next match will do if they are to stay in the top flight. Unfortunately for them, that next match is at Champions League-chasing Arsenal.
The Gunners may have lost this fixture last season, but they simply can’t afford to do that now.
With Theo Walcott (£8.9m) returning to fitness and form then they certainly don’t look like doing that, and the England man could play a large part in confirming the Latics’ relegation.
Walcott scored and completed 90 minutes in both of his last two matches for the Gunners, taking his tally to 13 strikes and 13 assists during a hugely productive season.
As Arsene Wenger’s men close in on a top four place Walcott looks to be a hugely important figure, and he’ll enter the Wigan game high on confidence, which could end up spelling trouble for Roberto Martinez and his boys.
Any discussion about the battle for the top four – and of course your ongoing battles in Fantasy Premier League – isn’t complete without a mention of Gareth Bale(£10.9m), who takes his considerable talents to Stoke City this weekend.
Bale and Spurs might find it tough going there, but they should eventually come out on top in a match which is sure to see defender Jan Vertonghen (£6.8m) come under threat from Stoke’s attack.
Elsewhere, Everton’s Marouane Fellaini (£7.2m) is sure to find support ahead of their Blues’ match against mid-table West Ham at Goodison Park.
The Belgian has been in fine form throughout the campaign and he’ll be determined to impress in his side’s final game in front of their own fans this season. Following the Blues’ goalless draw at Liverpool last week he could be one to back as they look to find the net again.
As for Liverpool, they go to a Fulham side still not safe from relegation just yet, and with both Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez unavailable then the onus is sure to fall on Philippe Coutinho (£6.7m) and Daniel Sturridge (£7.0m). Dimitar Berbatov (£7.1m) will of course be vital for the hosts.
At Berbatov’s former club, Sir Alex Ferguson’s last home match in charge of Manchester United brings selection issues with it, but he is likely to once again start with Robin van Persie (£13.7m) upfront for the visit of Swansea. Those prone to a little bit of nostalgia might like to back a few Fantasy points for Ryan Giggs (£6.0m) and Paul Scholes (£5.0m) too.
Back in the cold hard world of chasing the Champions League, Chelsea will be happy that Aston Villa are now all but safe as they prepare for a trip to Villa Park early on Saturday.
Rafael Benitez’s side will be in no mood to let up now as they look to finish as high as possible, and with the battle between Fernando Torres (£9.3m) and Demba Ba (£7.8m) sure to be dominating many thoughts, it is Juan Mata (£10.1m) who continues to make his team tick.
Somewhat bizarrely denied the winning goal at Old Trafford last weekend, Mata will be doubly determined to impress at Villa Park.
He could be a vital addition for your side.
Well he was never going to exit quietly was he?
Sunday saw the last action of one of the Fantasy Premier League stars of 2012/13, with Liverpool’s Luis Suarez leaving the game for the season with a goal in the 97th minute of what was an 11-point performance against Chelsea – not that everyone was talking about that come full-time.
In his absence, forward options are being scoured and teams are being altered, but perhaps his direct replacement was seen earlier on Sunday afternoon.
After failing to start since the 3-2 loss at Liverpool last month, Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe (£7.9m) – another with a history which includes biting opponents – came off the bench to score in Spurs’ fantastic comeback to beat Manchester City at White Hart Lane last weekend.
With Emmanuel Adebayor (£9.0m) struggling having scored just three league goals all season, Defoe’s return to fitness could be perfectly timed for Andre Villas-Boas’ side as they chase the Champions League.
As far as the Fantasy game goes, Spurs head for Wigan at the weekend before a double Gameweek next week when the north Londoners face Southampton and Chelsea, meaning that Defoe is likely to get plenty of playing time as the campaign draws to a close.
The England forward could prove to be a key man for both Tottenham and for your team as the scramble for league positions becomes more intense, and he could just be the forward to trust in Suarez’s absence.
Those fixtures for Spurs and the return to fitness of Gareth Bale (£10.5m) mean that the Welshman is sure to find himself thrown back into plenty of teams following his recovery from injury, whilst defensively the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (£5.8m) and defender Jan Vertonghen (£6.6m) could also offer much.
Elsewhere, the battle for the Champions League places will go up a notch at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea entertain a Swansea side who seem to have been on a downward spiral ever since they won the Capital One Cup.
Juan Mata (£9.8m) took his tally to 16 assists for the season after being credited with laying on both goals in the draw at Anfield, and with the Spaniard so key to everything his side do then Rafael Benitez surely won’t risk leaving him out for the clash with the Swans.
The form of both Eden Hazard (£9.6m) and Oscar (£7.8m) has been encouraging in recent weeks, but it is still Mata who makes Chelsea tick and who they’ll be looking to in a contest that the hosts will really need to win in their challenge for the top four, especially given that Suarez took a bite out of their hopes on Sunday.
Arsenal are the other one of three clubs that cannot go into the two still available top four places, and they’ll be hoping that champions Manchester United will have taken their eye off the ball as they visit The Emirates.
The absence of Olivier Giroud through suspension means that Lukas Podolski (£8.1m) is likely to come in from the start for the Gunners, whilst Theo Walcott (£8.8m) could also be restored to the central forward role that he so enjoyed earlier in the campaign.
A little higher up the table than Arsenal, Manchester City host West Ham in a contest in which Carlos Tevez (£9.1m) will be looking to keep up recent form against his former club. Having kept six clean sheets in their last seven home games, the likes of Joe Hart (£6.8m), Pablo Zabaleta (£6.2m) and Vincent Kompany (£7.0m) will be confident of keeping West Ham out.
Having scored only a second goal in 26 games at QPR last weekend, Stoke’s Peter Crouch (£6.0m) could be fancied for another strike at home to Norwich, whilst Christian Benteke (£7.3m) will be confident going into Aston Villa’s clash at home to Sunderland.
At Goodison Park, Everton will be going for a sixth home win in seven games as they host Fulham.
Marouane Fellaini (£7.4m), Kevin Mirallas (£6.9m) and Leighton Baines (£7.8m) are likely to garner the most attention, although for a cheap choice it could pay to go with Victor Anichebe (£4.4m), who has started the last six Blues games and is sure to have chances against a Fulham side who have kept just three clean sheets on the road this season.
Many thanks to Inside FPL for this great post which looks at why Santi Cazorla should be considered for your FPL team. Check out Inside FPL on twitter @insidefantasyPL . You can also sign up for their free FPL weekly newsletter delivered directly into your email address. Click their logo at the bottom of this article for more information.
Santi Cazorla – Differential Potential?
A lot has been made of midfielders through this season’s fantasy football campaign, with 5 players in particular dominating manager’s selection thoughts – Bale, Mata, Michu, Fellaini and Walcott. But there is a 6th player who, whilst not exactly under the radar, has not grabbed the imagination as much as the others, is actually the 3rd highest scoring midfielder in the game, and 5th overall. He’s also as nailed on as anyone in Arsenal’s starting lineup, In this article we take a look at the Arsene Wegner’s £16m summer signing from Malaga, Santiago “Santi” Cazorla González, review his fantasy form, and prospects for your team through to the end of the season.
Cazorla was immediately handed the advanced role in the midfield three, ahead of the double-pivot typical now in the modern 4-2-3-1. He made a big impact as soon as GW3, with 2 goals away at Liverpool and 13 FPL points. At the time Arsenal were receiving plaudits for a new found defensive resolve and his Anfield brace came on top of him topping the key pass and shooting charts. A real prospect then, and with a home clash against promoted Southampton ahead the transfers soon flowed in. Almost 100,000 managers brought in the Spaniard for GW4 but despite a 6-1 thrashing of Southampton Santi registered just a single assist. He bounced straight back though with an assist and 2 bonus points away against Man City and followed that up with 3 goals in his next 7 games, including goals in games against Man Utd and Tottenham.
Cazorla really garnered full-on fantasy attention though with a hat-trick and assist in a 5-2 away win at Reading, scoring a whopping 23 points, the second highest single GW score this season, behind Walcott’s 26. This did come in the middle of an a lean spell though, just the one, albeit a big one, goal-scoring performance in 10 games. With his hat-trick haul still fresh in the mind though and a double gameweek on the horizon Cazorla’s ownership peaked up at 21% but despite a fairly decent return during this time 5% of managers have since got rid, driven mainly due to some scintillating performances by team-mate Walcott, plus the form and opportunities of alternatives in Gerrard and Bale.
The infographic below shows Cazorla’s form, which we measure by comparing the number of shots he takes from inside the penalty box with how many shots in the box Arsenal have. We can see that Cazorla’s form basically tracks Arsenal’s. If his team do well, so does he, if the team are struggling, so does he. He doesn’t carry the team and dominate, like Bale does, or Ba did for Newcastle. He doesn’t produce something out of nothing a la Van Persie.. He’s had a real slump through January too, scoring just once and averaging only 3 pts/game in that time, but as can be seen he’s got himself back involved in Arsenal’s attack now, and the goals and points have returned.
So, what are the prospects for Santi from now through to the end of the season? Well, we imagine it’ll be business as usual, but without the winter slump, averaging about 6-7 points per game through to the end of the season. This places him behind Bale, and indeed behind Walcott, but level with the likes of Mata and Michu. He’s significantly less owned though than all these other players, who are all 25-30% except for Michu who is almost at a staggering 50% now. Arsenal also have a tempting set of fixtures to come after their GW29, playing Reading, Norwich and Wigan at home, and Fulham and QPR away, plus another double gameweek, making Cazorla a massive differential captain option through that stretch. Keep an eye on his price, he could be just the player to make the kind of difference that counts.
InsideFPL are dedicated to bringing you expert analysis and unique services to help you dominate your mini league. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter and price change notifications at www.insidefpl.com and be sure to follow us on Twitter for more FPL news and goodies @insidefantasyPL.
As a Derby County fan, @pedro_lamb‘s only involvement with the Premier League is through the Fantasy Premier League game.
An avid FPL player, The Lamb’s imaginatively –titled team Lamb County have managed to claw themselves up to 32,964th in the overall game this season, as well as 149th in Yirma and an impressive third in the Yirma head-to-head league.
With the end of January approaching, The Lamb settled down to make a decision that he knew would make or break his season, his bank balance and his mood until August. It was Wildcard time.
Here are The Lamb’s thoughts – and only HIS thoughts – as he takes on every Fantasy manager’s biggest challenge.
Warning: the following is not for the faint-hearted:
Who needs goalkeepers anyway?
Well it’s January and my head hurts, as I cut, bring in, drop, select, then re-drop, then re-select, finally drop him and then keep the same player I had to start off with……!!! Yep, it’s the pain of playing your January transfer Wildcard.
So I think I have finally decided on my team. One, because the deadline is nearly here, and most importantly two, if I spend any more time on the website I think my boss may sack me.
I have gone for a very radical move. Very radical.
My team doesn’t have a first choice keeper… Or in fact a second choice keeper…
I have selected two keepers who have more chance of being elected Prime Minister of Greenland than playing for their teams.
If they do play, I would be more than happy to drop them to have the current Prime Minister of Greenland Kuupik Kleist as my goalkeeper.
This bold – some would say visionary – idea has freed up enough funds to have both Mata and Bale in my team.
The more I think about it, not having a keeper, is it such a bad idea? And the answer is No, because even this season’s best scoring keeper Begovic, is averaging less than 4 points a game, both Mata and Bale are over 5 and over 38 Gameweeks, that is an additional 76 points, need I say any more? *Please don’t – Ed.*
The Lamb shoots and scores with another genius Fantasy Football idea. All hail the Lamb. The days of making Lucas Leiva captain and selecting the potentially brilliant Tom Huddlestone are behind me. This one’s a winner.
Time for a few more Wildcard thoughts.
I have waited as long as possible in case the transfer windows kicks off in a big way, sadly it hasn’t so I won’t be bringing in some of the young guns from the Championship that have been on every transfer gossip page throughout January.
So it looks like Will Hughes won’t be the big gamble for my team, he would have been cheap and made a lot of points, he could be next years must have cheap player, the new Charlie Adam in fantasy football terms!!! You heard it here first folks. *giggles*
The biggest problem with this window has been the unknown factor. Which of the January signings will actually get decent time on the pitch?
Ba is a prime example. He’s cheap and can score, but realistically are Chelsea going to keep Torres and his £50 million price tag on the bench? I can’t see it and I think he is destined to just make weekly cameo appearances.
Then there is Sturridge, but I am sorry you can’t overlook Suarez, he just too good at the minute, and again I can’t see Sturridge playing every game.
As for City, the main problem is ‘will he won’t he?’ It’s everybody’s favourite Italian again.
If Mario Balotelli goes then maybe I will invest in Aguero, but at the moment two games could go by and he’ll only get a few minutes on the pitch.
Also the inconsistent nature of Arsenal means selecting any of their players is going to be a very irritating. Some weeks they will be brilliant and other weeks they bring a whole new meaning to the word awful.
Despite this I suggest picking Theo Walcott. Now his future has been sorted I think this may settle him and the whole squad down, so maybe that famous Arsenal consistency might just return.
No goalkeepers were harmed in the giving of this advice.
Like plenty of Fantasy managers, Queens Park Rangers can only hope that a new year brings a change in fortunes. It doesn’t look like starting off that way.
After three consecutive defeats at the tail end of 2012, QPR begin 2013 with a trip to a resurgent Chelsea on Wednesday night. It may be a short hop across west London, but the gap in quality in huge.
One man who represents that gap is Juan Mata (£9.8m), the Spanish ace who has slowly overtaken Eden Hazard (£9.5m) as Chelsea’s main creative force the longer the season has gone on, scoring seven goals and making eight assists during the campaign to overtake his Belgian teammate following Hazard’s stunning start to life in England.
Against QPR you’ve have to feel that Mata will be able to exploit the shortcomings of Harry Redknapp’s side in much the same way that Luis Suarez did for Liverpool on Sunday, and with Rafael Benitez also surely likely to stick with Frank Lampard (£8.4m) following his brace in the weekend win at Everton, the potential for another big Chelsea home win is there for all to see.
They beat Aston Villa 8-0 in their last game at Stamford Bridge, and if another huge scoreline is to be achieved then Mata is sure to be key to the home side’s efforts. He looks to be a solid captaincy choice.
The festive period was a time to trust ex-Southampton players with your armband, with Gareth Bale (£9.9m) and Theo Walcott (£8.8m) both hitting hat-tricks to thrill the managers who own them.
Bale would have been backed for more points had he not picked up a suspension which keeps him out of Tottenham’s home match with Reading on New Year’s Day, but Arsenal’s Walcott is sure to be raring to go as he heads back to the south coast to take on Southampton fresh from racking up this season’s highest individual points total in one fixture against Newcastle on Saturday.
His three goals and two assists have of course seen plenty of Fantasy bosses draft him into the team in the hope that he can repeat the trick, and whilst he might not manage to pull off that incredible feat again he certainly looks as though he’ll be in the points as he heads back to his old club ― who conceded six to the Gunners, and one to Walcott, back in September.
The Manchester clubs look set to spent 2013 battling with each other in the same way they did in 2012, and both will fancy New Year’s Day wins as champions City host Stoke and leaders United go to Wigan. Sergio Aguero (£11.0m) and Robin van Persie (£14.0m) will again be the main men, whilst City’s Yaya Toure (£8.0) will play his final Premier League match before heading off for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Suarez (£10.2m) and Liverpool will be looking to arrest their schizophrenic form as they welcome Sunderland to Anfield in a match which should see the Uruguayan forward impress, whilst Demba Ba (£8.4m) could be playing his final match for Newcastle as they host Everton. Logic dictates that he’ll be getting less chances to pick up points should he move to Chelsea as expected.
Logic also says that whoever faces Aston Villa should be in the points given recent form, and as Swansea welcome Paul Lambert’s men to South Wales perhaps a move for Nathan Dyer (£5.3m) could pay off.
Michu (£8.2m) is doubtful for the match, and whilst his fitness should be monitored all the way up to the deadline ― not the most exciting way to spend New Year’s Eve admittedly ― the likes of Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman (£5.7m) could be the men to watch.
* Remember, the January Wildcard kicks in after Gameweek 21’s fixtures. The earliest your Wildcard can become active is Gameweek 22.
For Chelsea fans, the good things are coming in threes.
The club have won three of the last eight Premier league titles, there’s only been once this season when they didn’t take three points from a league game, and they’ve only conceded three goals at home and three goals away during their unbeaten first eight league fixtures.
Key to that success has been the terrific trio of attacking midfielders who appear to have the fate of their side at their feet.
In Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar the Blues possess the kind of talents that the rest of the Premier League can only dream of owning.
They don’t come cheap of course – with the trio costing around £80million to unite – but with Mata the oldest at 24 and Hazard and Oscar both just 21 it’s not inconceivable to believe that they’ll all be strutting their stuff at Stamford Bridge for the best part of the next decade. If you’re a Chelsea fan and that didn’t get you licking your lips then I suggest you might like to try another sport.
All three stars have taken the spotlight at some stage already this season, with Hazard shining in his first weeks in English football, Oscar delivering a scintillating Champions League debut at home to Juventus and Mata currently enjoying the limelight thanks to a series of impressive displays and goals over the past few weeks.
The Spaniard had a restricted beginning to 2012/13 following a 12 months which saw him complete his debut Premier League campaign, become an FA Cup and Champions League winner, score in and win the Euro 2012 final and then compete for his country at the Olympic Games, but now his true quality is shining through and Chelsea are reaping the benefits.
The manner in which his two goals transformed last weekend’s 2-1 deficit at Tottenham into a 3-2 lead had a kind of quality about it that you often only associate with championship winning teams, and if Chelsea carry on like this for much longer then it surely can’t be long before they are installed as favourites to win the league ahead of the Manchester clubs.
The chance to get one over on one of them comes on Sunday when Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge for probably the biggest game of Hazard and Oscar’s fledgling Chelsea careers so far.
The Belgian and the Brazilian might have been playing second and third fiddle to Mata’s leading man in recent weeks, but all three have the quality to decide a game which, given United’s recent defensive problems, looks to be Chelsea’s for the taking regardless of their Champions League loss in Donetsk on Tuesday night.
The attacking nature of his trio might have led Roberto di Matteo to occasionally rein them in, but the platform provided by the solidity of John Obi Mikel and the energy of Ramires behind them allows Chelsea’s fab three to be let off their leashes. It is a setup which means that the pressure to score goals isn’t suffocating Fernando Torres the way it used to do, whilst it’s also made Frank Lampard realise that he might as well start getting comfortable on the substitute’s bench.
Di Matteo has fielded the three stars in matches at Arsenal and Tottenham this season, and so a home game against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side isn’t likely to see him abandon the approach.
Beat United and Chelsea suddenly go seven points clear of them, whilst increasing their opponents’ league defeats this season to three.
There’s that number again. Chelsea fans won’t tire of seeing it throughout the season.
By the end of it though, if their star trio can keep on performing there is every chance that they’ll see their team at number one.